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First Aid: Fever

First Aid

Parents might worry when a child's temperature rises, but fever itself causes no harm and can actually be a good thing — often, it's the body's way of fighting infections.

Signs and Symptoms

A child who has a fever might be:

  • fussy
  • uncomfortable
  • warm to the touch
  • flushed
  • sweaty

What to Do

It's best to keep a child home from school or childcare until the temperature has been normal for at least 24 hours. If your child is uncomfortable, here are some ways to relieve symptoms:

  • Offer plenty of liquids to avoid dehydration.
  • Give acetaminophen or ibuprofen based on the doctor's recommendations. Do not give aspirin.
  • Never use rubbing alcohol or cold baths to bring the fever down.
  • Dress your child in lightweight clothing and cover with a light sheet or blanket.
  • Let your child eat what he or she wants, and don't force eating if your child doesn't feel like it.
  • If your child also is vomiting and/or has diarrhea, ask the doctor if you should give a children's oral rehydration solution (also called oral electrolyte solution or oral electrolyte maintenance solution).
  • Make sure your child gets plenty of rest.

Get Medical Care if:

  • an infant younger than 3 months old has a temperature of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher
  • an older child has a fever and:
    • looks sick
    • develops a rash
    • has lasting diarrhea and/or repeated vomiting
    • has signs of dehydration (peeing less than usual, not having tears when crying, less alert and less active than usual)
    • has a fever for 5 days
    • has a medical problem like sickle cell disease, heart problems, cancer, or lupus

Think Prevention!

Fevers are unavoidable. The key is to make your child as comfortable as possible until the fever passes, and get medical treatment when needed.

Reviewed by: Kate M. Cronan, MD
Date reviewed: July 2018